Spiritual Bench Press

Huff ‘n puff ‘n huff ‘n puff . No, it isn’t the big bad wolf at Piglet’s door. It’s me out on a walk making my way up the hill. My workouts these days are a cinch compared to the grueling physical exercise I had in Marine Corps boot camp, but without a drill instructor yelling in my face, it’s hard to motivate myself to get out there and do it. I just don’t like to exercise; however, I know if I don’t, my muscles will lose their strength and ability to do what God designed them to do. To build and keep muscle I must continually work my muscles.

Spiritual growth works the same way. If I expect faith to grow, then I must exercise my faith. But how? Thirty minutes on the elliptical machine will exercise my body, but not my spirit. What does a spiritual workout look like? For Jesus, it meant wielding the Word of God. Matthew 4:1-11 shows us. Jesus has fasted for 40 days and 40 nights, and the devil came to tempt Him. Three times the devil tempted Jesus, and three times Jesus said “It is written” and quoted a verse from God’s Word.

When trouble comes, we need spiritual muscle for the battle. If we haven’t spent time exercising, our muscle may fail us. Take every opportunity to give your spiritual muscles a workout. Speak God’s Word every day. Memorize and mediate on the Scripture. When think you can’t bear another day at a job you hate, proclaim “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13, NKJV). If your child is sick, pray “Lord, heal my child for you heal all our diseases” (See Psalm 103:3). Do you wonder whether you can pay the bills this month, say with confidence “God shall provide all my needs” (Philippians 4:19, NKJV).

No matter what we face, we can confidently declare what God’s Word has to say and “experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand” (Philippians 4:7, NLT). Our weapons “are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. … and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5, NIV).

The opportunity to exercise our spiritual muscles comes every time a negative thought or circumstance knocks at the door. We have two choices: to trust God and use the Word to grow our faith; or to let the negative thoughts and feelings take control. I’m going to trust God; I hope you will too. In the meantime, I’m going to exercise.

“My heart is confident in you, O God; my heart is confident. No wonder I can sing your praises!” (Psalm 57:7, NLT).

For a topical book of verses you can use to exercise your faith, read Joyce Meyer's The Secret Power of Speaking God's Word available on Amazon.

Debra L. Butterfield © 2010

Are You Out of Focus?

The disciples worked feverishly to steady their boat as the fierce wind and heavy waves of the Sea of Galilee pitched them about. But their fear of the storm was nothing compared to the fear of the ghost they now saw. “Don’t be afraid. Take courage. I am here!” Jesus called out to them walking on the water.

Peter, brash as always, yelled out, "Lord, if that’s really you, tell me to come to You."

"Yes, come," Christ answered.

Peter thrust his legs over the side of the boat and lowered his body to the water. His eyes fixed on Christ, he strode forward with confidence. This is amazing, Peter thought. But when he looked at the storm whipping around him, he became terrified and began to sink.

You may say "Peter, why did you take your eyes off Christ? It was your faith in Him that kept you afloat." But how often do we take our eyes off Christ when the storm is raging around us? Our troubles are easy to see—layoffs, terrorism, stress at work, the daily responsibilities of marriage and kids. Fear fills us if we focus on the wind and the waves. But if we focus on Christ and his promises we find peace in the midst of the storm.

Where are your thoughts focused? Be conscious of what you are thinking! That’s where the battle begins. Spend time each day to bring your thoughts back into focus. 
  • Start or end your day with a devotional reading
  • Meditate on a Bible verse
  • Read your affirmations
  • If you need immediate help, take 30 seconds, take a deep cleansing breath, and tell yourself “God is with me. I can do all things because Christ is here to help me.”
“You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3, NKJV).

Debra L. Butterfield © 2010


Justice or Forgiveness?

“What do you want from me?” my estranged husband yelled. It was yet another of our many arguments. My daughter was in a psychiatric hospital for treatment due to his sexual abuse. He had broken my heart beyond repair. I marveled that he could even ask such a question.

I told him, “I want you to hurt as much as I do.”

Understandably, when someone hurts us, we hold that person accountable for his or her actions. He/she wounded us and now he/she must pay the price and suffer the consequences. We want justice served. In reality, we want him/her to hurt too! There was a time when I wanted my now-ex husband to hurt as much, if not more, as I was hurting, but rather than demand justice, I chose to forgive him instead.

All too often, forgiveness is mistakenly understood to be approval of the wrong, or denying that the wrong even occurred. The cliché “forgive and forget” trips us up too. God forgives and forgets, but he only commands us to forgive (Matthew 6:14-15). Simply stated, forgiveness is giving up our right to exact justice and trusting God to make things right.

Be encouraged, our forgiveness and healing is accomplished through God’s power, rather than from our willpower. “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16, NIV). Go to God in prayer and ask for his help to forgive those who have wounded you, and to bring healing, physically, emotionally, and mentally.

Forgiveness is a choice. We can forgive and find healing, or demand justice and grow bitter. Which choice will you make?

“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31, NIV).

For two articles of forgiveness read “The Gift” and “Splinters” at GloryandStrength.com

Debra L. Butterfield © 2010

Victim or Victor?

Like the drop of a guillotine blade, my husband’s crime of sexual abuse severed my daughter’s innocence, my dreams of a happy family and our marriage. It took me several years before I finally admitted to myself what my husband’s crime had cost us all. I also felt no one else realized the toll either. My own selfishness demanded I receive sympathy. After all, I was the one left to clean up the mess; I was a victim too. That was wrong thinking, but it was how I felt. I was hanging on to a victim mentality.

The victim mentality is pervasive in today’s society. We want to find someone or something to blame for every little thing that goes wrong in our lives. The victim mentality robs you of complete healing because it releases you from your responsibilities to make things better again. As long as you remain a victim, there will always be someone else to blame for your failure to heal. As long as you remain a victim, there will always be a part of you living in the past, feeling wounded and depressed.

Take Action:
  • Choose to be a victor
  • Make a written list of your losses and allow yourself to grieve them. When you’re ready, rip up the list and throw it away. As you do, say out loud “This is past, I am free of it and I am healed.”
  • Put an end to pity parties
  • Forgive the person who hurt you
  • Create affirmations and read them out loud daily. For example: I am more than a conqueror through Christ who loves me (Romans 8:37). I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). I am getting better and better every day.
  • Seek professional help if needed
Debra L. Butterfield © 2010


Belly Breathing

Do you breathe from your chest or your belly? How we breathe can affect our well-being. Ninety-three percent of our energy is produced in the presence of oxygen. To determine how you breathe, place your hand over your belly button (sitting, standing or lying down). Now breathe like you normally do. Does your hand go up and down with your breath? If not, you are breathing from your chest.

Shallow breathing robs the body of vital oxygen and can actually trigger stress and anxiety reactions. Your body cannot enter a stress mode if you are breathing with your diaphragm. Shallow breathing takes place in your upper chest. Deep breathing takes place from your belly, fully using the diaphragm muscle and filling the lungs more fully. Breathing from the belly is the natural way to breathe. Chest breathing is learned.

I was a chest breather. I began to retrain my breathing simply by taking a few focused moments to concentrate on proper diaphragmatic breathing. The first time I practiced lying down in bed. I placed my hand over my belly so I could feel it move up and down with each breathe. I inhaled deeply and exhaled at the same rate. You must relax your stomach muscles to do this. After that, I practiced anywhere, anytime. Because I struggle with panic attacks, I saw immediate improvement in my state of mind, which was nearly always on stress mode.

There are numerous free resources on the Web, as well as resources you can purchase that will help you learn breathing exercises to improve your well-being. You can retrain yourself to breathe from the belly so it becomes the way you breathe all the time, even while you sleep. Go ahead, give it a try right now.

Debra L. Butterfield © 2010